Friday Follies: It’s All Fun and Games Until….

Saturday morning. Spending some time challenging a couple hundred kids with fabricating foam rockets. They are loving getting out of the classroom and into the cafeteria for a hands on experience building foam rockets and then launching them. They persistently brainstorm ways to get the rockets to go farther and higher. Through trial and error, mistakes and occasional failures, they achieve success! Rockets are flying everywhere. Bouncing off walls and garbage cans, other kids and the occasional unwary instructor who happens by. The curiosity, creativity and risk the kids take with the engineering design process are inspiring. If through this activity we can connect to real life applications and get them into Maker Spaces and Maker Labs, it will all be worth it. Worth the drive to the city early this morning to set up. Worth the exposure to all the kid germs and sticky hands grabbing hot glue guns from my helpful hands. Worth the parents hogging the supplies because they are as excited as the kids to engage in novel learning. And definitely worth the experience of having these wild ones use me as a target to aim the rockets at. “What if we hit Miss Sue? Do we get a prize?” No. No, you don’t. Rockets

Yes, it’s me, Sue Brainiac. The Head Brainiac Jerry’s long suffering wife. Brainiac Jerry loves offering events for poor underprivileged inner city kids that have never had the opportunity to torture Mrs. Brainiac with their attempts at foam rocket building. Yes, I understand that offering STEM activities encourages collaboration among students and sparks excitement about learning that may lead to a little girl becoming an engineer or a boy realizing he COULD go to college and do fun stuff for a living. It’s novel learning at its best. Developing synapses in the brain through presenting challenges to solve. Showing kids that tenacity and grit and hard work can actually be fun and rewarding. Blah blah blah. Okay. Kids learn to love science and math and make it applicable to everyday life. How nice for them.

But on a lovely Saturday morning , Mrs. Brainiac could be enjoying coffee on the deck and instead she is supervising kids from ages five to, well, whatever age the oldest parent is. Using scissors and hot glue and rubber bands. All her favorite things for kids to play with. And now the finished rockets are bouncing off her in spite of the oath to “not aim at anything living” that we made them take prior to launch.

How about we go back to the traditional education experience? Worksheets. Lectures. Videos of other people making things. Kids love watching other people have fun in videos. Tests! What about tests? Those take up lots of time and keep kids busy. And why aren’t these kids playing video games? That would keep them out of Mrs. Brainiac’s hair.

The worst part is all the questions they have. What if we use an extra rubber band? What if we angle it? How about if we make the fins longer? Shorter? More fins? Less fins? I have no idea! I’m not a scientist! But I am smart enough to let them figure it out themselves by trying it. And then when they figure it out and tell me, I smile knowingly as though I knew the answer all along and say, “There, now aren’t you glad you figured that out by yourself without me telling you the answer?”

Augh, the kids found me hiding behind the waste baskets writing this blog on my Ipad. “We want to make rockets, we want to make rockets.” Well, when do I get to make one of these rockets? I’m sure I can find a way to hit that top window they are all aiming for.

Friday Follies: We’re taking on 3D Projects!


Collaborating to make foam rockets!

I love collaborating with my dad on our projects because he encourages my own risk taking and creativity. Case in point, we’ve been crazy for our LED projects. First we created two different Christmas holiday cards (1, 2). Then we thought, “What if we make a Valentine’s card?” So we upped our LED game and created a pop-up and light-up valentine. I love the challenge of creating a pattern and wiring it to form something completely unique.

Because the pop-up valentine card wasn’t quite enough, I decided to push the boundaries.


So I decided to attempt 3D paper projects that light up with LEDs!

We’re in the prototype phase of our first 3D project and I can’t wait to show it to you. It will be debuted at the Wisconsin Parents Association Conference in May. We will be attending this show and giving away 250 of these light up 3D marvels. I cannot wait! {If you check back, I’m pretty sure we’ll be posting the finished project once it’s ready!}

Our family is full of collaborators. It’s one of the things that really makes our family unique. And fun. And crazy. Really crazy. We tend to be all in. Maybe a bit obsessive.

But when we get together, ideas are exchanged and we are off! Late last year we hosted a fundraiser for a little boy who was an orphan in China, he was *finally* paired with a family {one of my three sisters hosted him for one month in 2014}. His family was selected and he was on the fast track home. We wanted to help out, so we decided to throw together a fundraiser. In three weeks. We skyped. We texted. We emailed. We phone conferenced. We. Went. To. Work.


Perfect excuse for some chalkboard advertising!

Actually, we obsessed.

But three weeks after the initial meeting – we threw a huge party and raised almost $2,000 for Daniel to come home to his new family.

What I loved about our project is that we had the initial idea and quick work gave us a donated location from Jessica. We had exceptional organization from Sue and Amanda. We didn’t miss a single detail because Kendra watched to make sure we didn’t drop the ball. I offered up my design skills for advertising. We all chipped in to create additional products for sale {the men included! Shout out to the men in our lives who put up with us and even encourage our wild ideas.}.


Photo booth at the Pajama Party with Santa! The answer is YES. {I already know your question.} I told you already. WE GO ALL OUT. So that meant wearing *matching* elf pajamas. In public. For the children, of course.

Little Daniel made it home about two weeks ago to a home with big sisters, a mom and dad, and dogs! He loves dogs! We plan to visit the whole family later this summer {on a full family trip}.


Daniel and me just doing a little selfie!

Although we build our products with the classic classroom or homeschool lesson in mind, we really develop products because we love to explore and learn more. We do hands on learning in all facets of life. We believe your family would enjoy doing the same.

Friday Follies: Meet the Parent


I snagged her on the way out the door this morning. She’s going to flip when she sees I used this photo. She thinks she looks terrible – I think she’s adorable!

This morning we’re going to give you a little Behind the Scenes Tour at Brain Brigade. Well, really, I’m going to introduce you to my mom who keeps this place from exploding during our hands-on science projects. My parents have been married for a long time. I don’t exactly know how long because no one here is talking (but…if you ask my four-year old, Finn, he’ll tell you about 500 years). My mom has seen more of my dad’s crazy and creative classroom projects than she can recount. Sometimes my dad tested his science experiments and projects at home. And he’s always making something or tinkering around the house. She has stories to tell.

Sue will be joining us here at the blog a little more regularly. She’s funny. And intelligent. And organized. And she’s got all the dirt on my dad. Sue works for Fisher & Paykel…and is a sleep medicine expert. She has worked in the sleep industry for over 20 years. First as a sleep technologist and now working on the sleep products side helping people with sleep disorders get better sleep. If you have a question, she is not a doctor! But she probably has seen it happen or has some good suggestions to make sleeping easier for those of you who struggle. Leave your comments and fan mail below 😉

When Sue isn’t working you can find her attempting amazing feats while riding a hover board, working on her house (like right now at this moment she’s actually tiling a back splash in her kitchen!), or find her hanging out with her grand-kids (she has five). She also loves to travel. She loves to read. And she totes her little dog, Daisy, around with her often.

Daisy riding the hoverboard!


My dog Odin making little to no attempt to ride the hoverboard…

She has never had a specific hobby, until this week. After learning how to tile her kitchen back splash she is now ready to tile anything.
“It’s so picky and annoying and I loved every minute of it! Even the clean up is easy!” – yes, that is a direct quote!
She’s the ultimate multitasker. And you’re in for a treat!